My mother was the second of four daughters, born in 1927 to Polish immigrant parents. Her mother cooked traditional Polish dishes as well as some American ones in their Philadelphia home. For some reason that I have yet to understand and alas can no longer ask, my grandmother did not teach my Mom (or Mum as they say in Great Britain) to cook.
I have to say that she was a bit of a rebel in her time because she wanted to go to university at a time when a woman’s place was in the home, behind the stove, keeping house and raising children. Her father refused to let her go but she defied him, working during the day and studying at Temple and Drexel University night schools. After nine years she had accrued two and a half years’ credit towards a degree in chemistry but no education in home economics.
My dear Dad was a real trooper and politely ate my Mom’s culinary triumphs as well as her failures. Not having learned from her own mother, she learned to cook from cook books. Among these was the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.
Mom’s copy is still at home and must be a 1960’s edition. I always remember its red and white plaid cover being in our kitchen and on the cook book shelf. Many a meal was made from its recipes, and many a page shows signs of use as spatters and stains adorn this well-loved book. One Christmas after I had moved to Paris, Mom gave me my own, brand new copy of our red plaid friend. The 1981 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book has adorned my cook book shelf ever since, and I reach for it whenever I want a good recipe that will always work and will always satisfy a certain yearning for simple, delicious, home cooked food.
In the meantime, once my brother and I started growing up and the spectre of paying for our college educations loomed over my parents’ heads, Mom went to work. Her personal growth over those years, going from “just a job” to a full blown career, was evidenced by changes in her clothes sense and her cooking skills. We went from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book to Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet, from Beef Stew to Boeuf Bourguignon, from supper to dinner parties.
All along, Mom taught herself to cook from cook books. Having started her professional life as a chemist all those years ago, she had a keen sense of ingredients. I have lost count of the number of times we would go out to eat in a restaurant, with Mom sitting there paying great compliments to the chef by working her palate to decipher the recipe, and lo and behold, a few days later she would recreate our restaurant meal at home.
I picked up the cook book habit from my mother, and I now have several cook book shelves, not just one, and a few hundred cook books adorn them. Taking pride of place in an easy-to-reach spot is my trusty 1981 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. So when friends Wilfried and Marie-Line asked me for a tried and tested muffin recipe, I knew where to look.
Here then is the Basic Muffin recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, in the original cups-and-teaspoons version and my conversion into grams and millilitres. But where is my trusty Thermomix in all of this? Alas, this is one recipe that is best accomplished by the most traditional methods: a bowl, a wooden spoon and a gentle hand. But don’t worry; I’m using my Thermomix to steam the rice and vegetables for my dinner tonight!
Original recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, ©1981 by Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, Iowa, USA. Conversion to metric system by Madame Thermomix, based on based on conversions calculated on Diana’s Desserts and tested in my tummy kitchen.
Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.
|1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour||195 g plain flour|
|¼ cup sugar||55 g granulated sugar|
|2 teaspoons baking powder||2 teaspoons baking powder|
|½ teaspoon salt||½ teaspoon salt|
|1 beaten egg||1 beaten egg|
|¾ cup milk||180 ml milk|
|1/3 cup cooking oil||75 ml oil|
In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center. Combine egg, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened; batter should be lumpy. Grease muffin cups or line with paper bake cups; fill 2/3 full. Bake in a 400°F/200°C oven for 20 to 25 minutes or till golden. Remove from pans; serve warm. Makes 10 to 12 muffins.
Chef’s Notes: Muffins are delicate little wonders and great care should be taken not to over mix the batter. A few turns of a fork or a wooden spoon will do the trick. Work quickly and start by assembling all of your ingredients so you can just mix and spoon into your muffin cups. If you beat the batter and leave it while doing something else it will begin to bubble, and if the bubbles burst (as they inevitably do) your muffins will be heavy and not rise properly.
Kid friendly: Muffins are so simple to make they’re a great recipe for kids. Just weigh, measure and stir. Lots of laughter will surround the filling of the muffin cups as great blobs of batter fall off the spoon – even when it’s adults making muffins! A responsible adult should handle the oven processes as of course the muffin tin will be very hot when it comes out.
From this basic recipe you can create your own variations by adding fruits and flavours. I used the “Jelly Muffins” variation and added a teaspoon of strawberry jam on top of each cup of batter to make a gooey, yummy creation.
For Blueberry Muffins, toss 100g fresh or thawed, frozen blueberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar and gently mix into the basic muffin batter. For Apple Muffins, chop two small, peeled apples and add to batter along with ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Want some chocolate? Add a big handful of chocolate chips or broken pieces of chocolate to make Chocolate Chip Muffins. The only limitation is your imagination!
Bon appétit !